Saturday, 2 June 2012

#69: All Together Now

2012 Cabot Trail Review 
Part 2: A most amazing race in a most amazing place

A view from the Trail on our way to the start of leg 1.
The first leg was set to start at 7am and given that it was still a 20 or so min drive from Baddeck, the entire team was up and ready to go before 6am and the SUVs were re-loaded (including with excessive amounts of alcohol which had to come along for the ride) and ready to roll. The first memory of the day will go down to a spectacular view of the sun rising above the ocean and through a majestic valley to the east and was followed shortly after by the first (and final) near disastrous ‘tree trunk’ incident while parking at the Gaelic College in St. Anne’s, the starting destination of the race. When questioned about the event, Darren’s only response was: “Who puts a tree trunk in the middle of a grass lawn?!” God does Darren. God does!

An early team meeting. You'd think the Belge would look refreshed considering he slept THE WHOLE TIME!
The start was crowded with spectators as most teams in their entirety were present to see off their first runner. Almost exactly at 7am, the horn sounded to kick off the race and 70 eager harriers hurried off into the hills. We were then forced to wait the unlucky 25min that we randomly drew as the time that must pass before our main support vehicle could lead the starting area. The other support vehicle would have to wait the mandatory 30min. This is of course did not apply if the vehicles left 10min or more before the official starting time of the leg.
Rob Campbell chatting with a competitor just before the start of leg 1.
We eventually got out of there and sped ahead to catch up with Rob. Another important race rule is that no vehicle is allowed to stop (‘support’) within the first 5km of any leg which is conveniently marked by a water station put on voluntarily by one of the teams. Teams cannot offer actual support (water, Gatorade, a ventilator) until after the 10k mark and no one is allowed to stop within the final km of a leg (the only official course marking via a small yellow sign). Those are just the rules!

Captain Campbell getting into a groove on leg 1.
Anyway, we caught up to Rob and he notified us that after a bit of a slow start getting comfortable, he was running strong at about the halfway mark. I wish I could say that something terribly exciting happened during this (and subsequent) leg(s) of the race, but the fact of the matter is that most of the time, you (the runner) are simply running on your own along a somewhat busy highway over rolling hills and are way to focused and hurting to pay attention to the breathtaking views and scenery passing you by. We drove to finish which was located at the bottom of a hill next to a nice little church in the middle of nowhere and were there in time to see Rob cruise to the finish in 1:04:38 (3:48/k) which was good for 4th place. The winner of the Leg was (to no one’s surprise) an established member of the Maine-iacs, the team that would go on to win the overall event and 14 of 17 individual legs. He also set a new record for the leg in 55:13 or 3:15/k. A good start for them! Kevin Gough of Cardio also ran a fantastic leg coming in soon after Rob in 6th place in a time of 1:07:27 (3:58/k). Complete leg 1 results here.
At the finish. Satisfied (perhaps) with a fine performance.
Next up for the Lungs was our hired harrier from the West Coast, Guy Smith, a member of the Vancouver Falcons Athletics Club (VFAC), who at age 56 was our oldest runner who had recently completed the BMO VancouverMarathon in a time of 2:55! He too put in an exceptional effort over the long and winding 17.92km leg and would cross the line in 5th place in a time of 1:08:46 (3:51/k)  just one place ahead of Sharlene Cobain of Cardio Arrest who finished first female overall in 1:11:24 (4:00/k). Leg 2 results.
Guy Smith working hard during leg 2.

David and Darren having a shouting match at the finish of Leg 2.
Long before any of us had left Ontario and headed East for the trail, news had spread that leg 3 was going to be a battle. I was scheduled to run this shorter (13.46km) relatively ‘easy’ leg due to the fact I would be running the much more challenging (and all uphill) leg 10 later in the evening. I was hoping to run fast yet comfortable and cruise in between 3:35 and 3:40/k in order to save my legs. Fate it seems had other plans for me and that was simply not going to happen.

In the days leading up to my departure for Halifax, our teams’ private investigators (yes they exist) caught wind that the Maine Road Hags, an all-female team from… Maine (USA), who sport some very skilled runners and always finish top female team (by a long shot), would be putting their ‘hallowed’ hag, Sheri Piers, the top American female at Boston this year (and 10th female overall) as well as 24thoverall at the 2012 Olympic Marathon Trials were she ran 2:37:09, onto the leg to no doubt go after the women’s record and perhaps even more. It thus became necessary for me to avoid being ‘hagged’ at all costs and the pressure was certainly on. I grew increasingly nervous about this task and can say with confidence that I have never before been more afraid of a 40 year old women who was smaller than my grandmother. As the time to the start (10:27) grew nearer, I became increasingly anxious and was doing my best to ‘psyche’ myself up for the leg. I knew I could run fast and run well, but I could not know for sure if it would be enough to best Ms Piers and how much I would have to give on this leg with yet another still to come. I warmed up ever so briefly and was left alone as my team went on ahead. Alone with my fears. The time came and we hurriedly lined up on the ‘trail’ and then with just the shortest of warning, the horn sounded and we were off. I quickly settled in on the left side of the road immediately behind Piers and a Maine-iac and ran just behind them for the first few hundred metres. An unknown runner on an unknown team quickly went to the front and began building a small lead. Not wanting to let him get away, I made my first pass on Piers and tried to make up some ground on the leader. It soon became clear that this unknown leader was in over his head and I passed him around 3k and took the overall lead.
Myself cruising (comfortably) and in the lead during leg 3.
For the next 5k I ran seemingly alone with nothing and nobody ahead but an empty road. After the 5k mark, various teams were camped on the opposite side of the road supporting their runners and all of them made it perfectly clear that I had close company. As if I was the evil enemy, all of them cheered loudly for the second place runner sitting soundly on my heels.  I can’t even recall how many people told me I was about to get ‘chicked,’ ‘girled,’ and appropriately ‘hagged.’ Occasionally, I corrected them and told them it wasn’t going to happen. I was doing my best to believe that were true. The Hags support crew and our crew were there every couple k’s and Rob would let me know how far I was ahead. 200m became 100m and at approximately 5miles (8k), Sherri caught me and settled in right behind me. As we approached a rather long uphill and feeling like I may have been defeated once and for all, the only thing I could think to say to her was something to the tune of (perhaps I just thought this): “Well hello Ms Piers. We meet again. Shall we dance? Feel free to take the lead as I’d actually prefer to follow for awhile.” 
The breaking point: I build a slight lead on Sheri during a lengthy hill and  create some space between us.
And the next thing I know... she's gone. Less than 30sec later as I climbed the hill (my speciality don’t you know), I seemed to once again gain some ground on her. It would later become apparent that this was the point in which I broke her and won myself the race. Rob told me I had 50m at the top of the hill and she never came any closer than that. I tried to stay comfortable and relaxed and stay at a constant pace and only checked my watch once to see the distance which read 10.7k. I had less than 3k to go…~10min I figured. Several more times I was consoled to hear that the gap between Ms Piers and I was either staying steady or slightly increasing. At one point Rob said it was 400m which I convinced myself was more than enough with so little to go. The increasingly hot temperatures and blasts of warm air began to cause minor cramping problems just as I hit the “1km to go” marker and so I gave what little I had left and also began to realize I was about to win a leg of the Cabot Trail (my second outright win of the year after Good Friday). I finished as fast as I could and would soon be informed that I ran 47:12 (3:31/k) which was ~5sec per k faster than I had planned to do but was just enough to beat Piers who finished only 35sec back and bested the female course record by an impressive 2 and a half minutes (new record: 47:47; old record: 50:19). Leg 3 results. We gave each other a big hug at the finish and I’m sure we both will acknowledge the role each other played in pushing one another to the get the results we did on the day. It seems that the Maine-iacs may have put one of their lesser animals on this leg in hopes that Ms Piers would have won outright but unfortunately that wasn’t to be. Mu ah ha hah. Needless to say I was pretty stoked about my first leg and had minimal interest in the fact that I would be running again, and a much tougher leg, in less than 12hrs…
A great shot with mere metres to go as I sprint to the finish in first place on leg 3.
My own excitement as well as our teams over the surprise victory at leg 3 unfortunately wouldn’t last long as we closely approached the start of the 4th and some would argue the toughest leg of the entire race (the other being leg 9). Leg 4 is the longest leg at 20.01km and involves an initial 7k cruise over rolling hills before reaching the base and then climbing Cape Smokey, a 2.1k rise with steep (suicidal) grades, and then cruising down the other side hoping your legs have something left. The (un)fortunate individual assigned with this more difficult of tasks was our youngest (and some would argue best looking) member of the Lungs, Michiel Van Hooreweder (or as I like to call him: The Belge). Despite his incessant interest in road cycling and (pool/lake/ocean…water!) swimming, his superior fitness, impressive build and youthful exuberance made him the ideal candidate for this lofty leg which would also prove to be among his last running races in the country since he was set to leave Canada a week later. He certainly didn’t disappoint despite a cramping issue which slowed him after the initial ascent of the mountain. He cruised to the top of Smokey looking comfortable to say the least but was sadly slowed slightly due to cramping issues in the unexpected heat and humidity. In the end he completed his task in a time of 1:22:52 (4:09/k), good for 5th place. Paul Huyer of Cardio Arrest also put on a clinic, especially considering his recent return from a stress fracture in his leg. He finished the leg in 3rd place in a time of 1:20:52 (4:03/k). Well done gentlemen, well done. Leg 4 results.
Our Black Lung, the Belge (Michiel VH), with a slight lead on Cardio's Paul Huyer as they tackle Cape Smokey. Huyer would go on to best the Belgian and finish 3rd while Michiel would suffer from cramping and finish 2min back in 5th.
The next leg saw the debut of Mr Anthony Davey. Davey narrowly avoided being hagged (okay, he was well in front and wasn’t worried for a second) and finished his 17.5km leg in a time of 1:05:55 (3:46/k) which was more than good enough for second place overall. A ‘hag’ was (relatively) close behind in third and Aleks K of Cardio in 4th. Leg 5 results. This would be the first of a double for Davey and a helluva job from an old guy I am proud to call my father (he unofficially adopted me and plans to exploit me if I ever get good (at anything)). I love ya Dad! Haha
Davey taking a moment to balance on one leg during leg 5.
Some of the guys rest and relax to enjoy the amazing ocean views while Hiddleston struggles somewhere on Leg 6.
Leg 6 was a beautiful but challenging leg along the coast and while David Hiddleston ran his ass off in order NOT to be beaten by a girl, a majority of our team took in the scenery and the magnificent views. Sadly, his 1:12:14 (4:08/k) effort over the 17.5km where he battled some wildly wicked winds and (extremely) rolling hills was not quite fast enough as he came in shortly after Denise Robson but placed 5th overall. Leg 6 results. Although not technically ‘hagged’ on the leg, he was indeed ‘chicked’ and is thus awaiting the teams’ disciplinary committee report and suggested outcome.

A great shot of our man David Hiddleston leading  (albeit temporarily)  a small pack of runners during leg 6. He would go on to get 'chicked' by the lady in the hula skirt.
Onward to leg 7 where absolutely nothing of any significance happened whatsoever.

Just kidding! Darren Lee did absolutely amazing and finished 3rd overall in 50:40 (3:46/k) on the 13.5km leg. He also didn’t lose to a girl or back any of the vehicles into large immovable objects. All around a good job by Darren. During the leg as we attempted to support him, a challenge ensued in which we tried (in vain) to get any reaction at all from Darren who remains a rock of concentration and focus during his running exploits. Even my lame and sarcastic comments (“Look Darren, you’re running a race”) and Anthony’s incessant “I love you’s” directed at him, Darren won the challenge easily and refused to acknowledge us in any way, shape or form. Rob Watson was right: What a jerk! Haha. Tara Lapstra on the other hand of Cardio Arrest is just a delightfully cheerful human being and  finished strong for Cardio in a time of 58:33 (4:21/k). Because she did acknowledge us during the race and was very nice about it, she will likely replace Darren in subsequent years. Leg 7 results.
Sorry Darren but your inability/unwillingness to acknowledge us when we yell and scream support at you may end up costing you your spot on the team. Haha Just kidding. Then who would do our team taxes? You da man Darren!
Although highly unexpected and which caused Mr Davey much undue confusion (and crying), leg 8 followed almost immediately after leg 7, and showcased the first running of our fearless leader and official team captain (who is really just a figurehead of our ruthless puppet regime). For whatever reason (but probably due to mounting unrest in the Middle East and a fear of bumblebees) he wasn’t entirely thrilled with his effort on the leg despite clocking a 46:17 (3:48/k) which was also good for a solid 3rd place finish. Melinda Campbell put many men to shame, undoubtedly causing them to undergo ‘Cardio Arrest,’ when she came in shortly after in 52:10 (4:17/k) and placed 6th overall and was the 2nd female. Leg 8 results.

Unable to locate any photos of Mr Doyle completing this leg, I found one of a pretty girl in red instead. Doesn't she look fast? And she is too!
Found one. Move over 'Angry Dan.' Introducing 'Angry Doyle' flying toward the finish on leg 8.
And thus concludes my coverage of the ‘day legs’ (Legs 1 through 8) on day one as the race approached the approximate half way mark. Stay tuned for the third edition/posting of my Cabot Trail Relay review which will continue to recap the race in its entirety (covering legs 9 through 17). 

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